Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> said on Friday its U.S. chief, John Krafcik, is stepping down after his contract was not renewed and will be replaced by the U.S. sales chief David Zuchowski.
Krafcik, 52, had been the chief of Hyundai's U.S. operations since late 2008, when its share of the U.S. market was 3 percent. It rose to 4.9 percent in 2012.
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Zuchowski is 55. He takes over on January 1 after the surprise announcement of Krafcik's departure. Krafcik's contract expires at the end of the year.
Krafcik led the U.S. arm of Hyundai as it set sales records by using innovative marketing techniques including a program that allowed Hyundai buyers who lost their jobs during the recession in 2009 to return their new cars.
Before coming to Hyundai in 2004 as head of product development and strategic planning, Krafcik was with Ford Motor Co and the venture between General Motors Co and Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> that built cars in a jointly run factory in California.
But Krafcik also oversaw Hyundai as the company was cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for overstating fuel mileage claims on its cars in 2012.
Last week, Hyundai reached a preliminary $210 million settlement on the fuel mileage issue in a class action suit. Kia Motors, which is Hyundai's sister company but is mostly operated separately in the United States, reached a settlement of $185 million last week.
Capacity constraints have limited Hyundai's sales since it hit a market share of 5.1 percent for 2011. Its share of the U.S. new-vehicle market through November was 4.6 percent, down from 4.9 percent through November 2012.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall, Deepa Seetharaman and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)